Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is used to relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce the psychological cravings that occur when a person stops using drugs or drinking.
Though many drugs that are used for MAT may be in the same family as the drugs they are replacing, they are longer-lasting and safer, assisting the addict to overcome his or her dependence on the more dangerous counterpart.
Freed from their withdrawal symptoms and cravings, the recovering addict can focus on rebuilding other aspects of his or her life: employment, relationships, and mental and physical health. This leads to fewer instances of relapse. Meanwhile, MAT has shown to aid in the decrease of transmissions of diseases like HIV and Hep-C, as well as criminal activity.
Numerous studies on the effectiveness of MAT have been conducted, especially in recent years, as the opioid epidemic has forced the hand of modern medicine. For instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) conducted a study in 2015 that found those who engaged in MAT for their opioid use disorder were more likely to stay committed to and engaged in addiction treatment.
While opioid addiction impacts people all over the world, it is especially acute in the U.S., where 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply is consumed. Part of this consumption can be traced back to the greed and dishonesty of major pharmaceutical companies, who touted products like OxyContin as being non-habit forming when they introduced them in the 1990s, while another part can be connected to the medical professionals who overprescribed these medications. (In 2015 alone, 300 million prescriptions were written for these highly addictive painkillers.)
In 2017, more than 72,000 people died of a drug overdose. This represents a big increase from just the year before when 64,000 people died of an overdose. While these overdose numbers represent several kinds of substances, including meth, cocaine, barbiturates, and sedatives, nearly 70 percent of these overdose deaths involved opioids.
Kentucky is among the top ten states with the highest opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2016, there were 989 opioid-related overdose deaths in Kentucky, which is nearly double the national rate. Since 2012, heroin-related overdose deaths have increased from 143 to 311 and deaths related to synthetic opioids have increased from 70 to 465.
MAT has proven controversial in recovery circles, as some hold that those in MAT are not worthy of their “in recovery” status because they are replacing one drug with another. This attitude is harmful within recovery communities since those living with addiction often need one another for support, empathy, and guidance.